In its heyday, it stood guard over a creepy churchyard which had become home to a nefarious network of rogues and bodysnatchers.
The 19th century “watchtower”, located in the south-west corner of St Cuthbert’s graveyard, has been listed for rent as “office space”, despite being surrounded by hundreds of graves containing some of the elite from Edinburgh’s past.
The tower, owned by the city council but leased to an anonymous individual, is said to have “office space for 3-4 people on the first floor, with room for an informal meeting space on the ground floor”, according to estate agents Cuthbert White.
Plans for the tower reveal it contains a spiral staircase, while it’s also noted that the property “benefits from a popular location in Edinburgh’s West End, close to fantastic amenities including bars, restaurants , cafes and shops”.
However, the history of the watchtower offers a window into the city’s gruesome and bloody past, having originally been constructed as a way to deter bodysnatchers from pillaging the graves.
Property expert David Alexander, managing director of estate agents DJ Alexander, believes the property would be attractive to the right tenant, despite its spooky setting.
“We’re seeing a number of unique properties coming on to the market recently as the need and use of different buildings changes,” he said.
“This is clearly up there with the most unique of those and I would expect it to attract a lot of interest from various potential tenants.
“With the building in the setting that its in, I think something like one of the ghost tours could do a lot with being based in the building, from an outside perspective, that would make the most sense.”
Little is known about the building, other than it was renovated in the early seventies, but since being designated for business use, 11 companies based there – which include several property firms, ad agency Oldco and The Sexy Cleaning Service – have been dissolved.
Artist Sir Henry Raeburn – who painted the famous “skating minister” in 1790 – mathematician John Napier and Charles Darwin, uncle of the famed naturalist of the same name, are among the hundreds buried in graves surrounding the tower.
Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, said she was pleased the watchtower wasn’t going to lie vacant and believes it will be attractive to potential tenants.
“I’m glad it is at least being used for something, iconic buildings like that deserve to be occupied and shouldn’t be allowed to fall into disrepair,” she said.
“I think it will prove popular with some of the more unique businesses in the city, but I can’t imagine there’s a lot of space inside.
“The graveyard will probably put off a lot of tenants; personally I don’t fancy the walk home through the graveyard, especially around this time of year, but I think to the right kind of business, it’s probably an attractive location.”